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Psychotherapy is a key element of addiction treatment and recovery. At its core, a substance use disorder is the result of some kind of pain, often from trauma, abuse, neglect, or a mental health issue. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of people with substance use disorders also have co-occurring mental health issues. A strong recovery entails identifying, treating, and managing co-occurring mental health issues, which means there’s a good chance you’re going to need a therapist. Even if you don’t have a co-occurring mental illness, therapists who specialize in addiction can help you change your thinking and behavior around substance use. 

Unfortunately, there may be times when your therapeutic relationship just isn’t working out. It’s important to keep in mind that it can take a little time for that relationship to develop and bear fruit, so patience is important. However, the following are some times when you should give serious thought to switching therapists. 

When You’re Moving

If you’re moving far away, then you will probably have to find a new therapist. Keeping your regular appointments is important and if the travel time is unreasonable, you will be more likely to skip or give up on therapy entirely. However, if you really like your therapist and you seem to have a good working relationship, a longish commute may be worth it. 

It’s also worth considering that many therapists do online sessions now, so if you do like your therapist, video sessions may be an option. If not, you might ask for a recommendation for a new therapist in the area you’re moving to. 

Unprofessional Behavior

Unprofessional behavior can take many forms. Some unprofessional behaviors should be automatic deal breakers. For example, if your therapist makes sexual advances, is verbally abusive, or breaks confidentiality, it’s definitely time to stop seeing them and find someone new right away. It’s important to note that this kind of behavior is extremely rare. Most therapists take professionalism very seriously both because their livelihood depends on having a good reputation and because the reason they got into this work to begin with is that they want to help people. 

Other kinds of unprofessional behavior might be worth a discussion before you start looking for a new therapist. This kind of behavior might include cancelling appointments at the last minute or not showing up. Being distracted during sessions is another bad sign. If your therapist is eating, texting, or staring out the window during your sessions, that means they aren’t giving you their full attention. Therapists are human too and they may have very good reasons for missing an appointment or being distracted. If your relationship is otherwise good, it might be worth having a conversation before you look for a new therapist. Feedback helps therapists improve too. However, if the behavior persists, it might be time to look elsewhere.

You’re Not Seeing Improvement

If you used to be making good progress but that progress has stalled, it might be time to consider getting a fresh perspective. If your therapist is helping you, then your needs will change over time. As you get old problems under control, your priorities in treatment may shift. It’s important to let your therapist know when your priorities change or new needs arise, otherwise they may assume you still want to focus on your original goals. Therapy is a collaborative effort and you have to take an active role in deciding where to go. 

Like everyone else, therapists have their own strengths and weaknesses. As your needs change, their strengths may or may not match your needs. For example, when you enter therapy, your top priority might be coping with cravings but as you get that under control, you may be more concerned about improving your relationship with your spouse. Those are very different goals and your therapist may or may not be able to bring the same skill and experience to bear on that challenge. If you’re not making progress toward your goals after a few months, it may be worth looking for someone new. A common symptom of this is if you start to dread going to therapy or feel like it’s a chore. That probably means you’re covering the same ground every session without seeing any change.

You Feel Like Your Therapist Violates Your Boundaries

A good therapist will always respect your boundaries. That means they respect your values, goals, and autonomy. As noted above, any sort of sexual or abusive behavior is a clear violation of boundaries and grounds for finding a new therapist right away. However, there are other ways to violate boundaries. Trying to tell you what to do is one example. Your therapist will likely make suggestions or give you some homework assignments from time to time but they should let you make your own choices without pressure or manipulation. They should also take your wishes, thoughts, concerns, and values seriously. Even when you disagree about something, you should feel like your therapist takes you seriously. 

On the other hand, your therapist shouldn’t be too familiar either. While you should get along, your therapist shouldn’t be your pal. If they talk too much about themselves, get too personal, or try to maintain a relationship outside of therapy, that compromises their professionalism and shows a lack of clear boundaries.

You Don’t Feel Like You Can Talk Openly

Perhaps the single most important thing about a therapist is that you feel like you can speak openly. Without that level of trust, it’s really hard to make any progress, however much skill and experience they have. If you feel judged or defensive, you’ll feel like you have to censor yourself and you may start to dread coming to sessions. It can take a little while to feel comfortable with a therapist, so don’t worry if you don’t feel like you can open up right away. It may take several months to build trust. If you’ve been seeing a therapist for a while and still don’t feel that trust, consider finding someone else.

Therapy is a crucial part of addiction recovery and a good therapeutic relationship is central to making therapy work. If you don’t feel like you have your therapist’s full attention, they behave unprofessionally, you no longer see improvement, you feel like your therapist doesn’t respect your boundaries, or you feel judged, it may be time for someone new. Getting this relationship right can make a huge difference and you deserve someone who is a good fit. 

The Guest House Ocala provides unparalleled, premier-quality treatment to those who suffer from self-defeating behaviors brought on by trauma and its underlying issues. We are uniquely equipped to help our guests heal from trauma-induced substance abuse and process addiction in a safe, comfortable and confidential setting. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information.